Provide a short bio.
I am Marilyn McAlister from El Centro, California. I have been an educator for 28 years. I consider myself dynamic, engaging, and passionate. I teach sixth grade GATE and am a lead teacher in the El Centro Elementary School District. I am a Google Certified Educator, Nearpod Certified Educator, hold an AVID Digital Teaching and Learning certificate, am GATE certified, and a board member for the Imperial Valley Computer Using Educators (IVCUE) affiliate. My educational passions include building relationships, Google tools, hyperdocs, inquiry based learning, station rotation, the Global Goals, Nearpod, developing student-leaders, and advocating for teacher voice. I run a flexible seating classroom, honor voice and choice, and use technology to promote empathy, creative critical thinking, and collaboration. I love supporting fellow educators with purposeful technology, focused lesson design, and student agency. Sharing on Twitter (@MarilynEdu) and Instagram (MarilynEdu760) brings me joy as I connect with other passionate educators.
Please describe your experience with education technology.
My edtech journey started 8 years ago when I saw a Catlin Tucker keynote. I kept saying to myself, “I can do that. I can do that.” I became Google certified, dove into purposeful lesson design with hyperdocs, began honoring student voice with Flipgrid, and continued implementing tools that strengthen my students’ content creation and collaboration. Nearpod became part of my repertoire when I started using it during Station Rotation with student leaders. During distance learning, I’ve learned how to create screencasts with Screencast-O-Matic, leveraged Desmos for higher order thinking in math, my student’s interest in gaming led me to Minecraft Edu, and made learning relevant with Flocabulary. Given the breadth of tools that I have been exposed to and use, I’m able to integrate a variety of tools right into my Nearpod lessons. Now, I not only use edtech in my classroom, but I also share at my district, local and regional conferences with the EdTechTeam and CUE organizations. It’s a journey that is continually evolving as I learn and grow as an educator and presenter.
How have you used Nearpod and/or Flocabulary in the past year?
This school year, Nearpod has been an integral part of remote teaching and learning. I have been able to package my online lessons by creating experiences that include social-emotional check-ins, language, math, social studies, and science content, polls for checking for understanding, videos, and virtual field trips. My favorite add-ons are the Draw-It tool for math and Time to Climb competitions for vocabulary. Last year, when I was teaching in my brick-and-mortar classroom, I taught my sixth graders how to run student-led stations with Nearpod. The Universal Design for Learning mindset of Nearpod enables my students to access content through Nearpod in meaningful ways. The accessibilitly tools, particularly the text to speech function, has been valuable for my learners. The ability to download notes right into Google drive allows my students to take notes and refer back to them as we revisit content. As an educator, I am to cultivate confident, independent, and collaborative learners. Nearpod is the perfect tool!
Additionally, the Nearpod alignment with the Global Goals is phenomenal! Last year, I introduced the Global Goals using the premade Global Goals lessons. In self-selected teams, students were able to dive into the goals and deepen their understanding in engaging and innovative ways. This year, I am running a district “Gifted and Talented Education” enrichment program with 48 identified third grade students with the Global Goals as our overarching inquiry topic. The students' teachers shadowed me as I taught their students virtually. There was hesitation whether or not the third graders would be able to use the technology. Boy did we show them! The third graders jumped into sessions, shared their ideas in writing and with drawings, and showed their learning with the Time to Climb games. I had no doubt that Nearpod would be a match with the little learners. The students had the most fun with the VR experiences. I shared the reports with the teachers. One teacher was amazed that one of their students worked so much with me. Honestly, the engaging nature of Nearpod draws students in. I’m so glad I followed my instincts and used Nearpod with the third graders.
Although I teach all subjects, math is a primary focus. I’ve successfully added Nearpod as a “Visual Thinking” protocol. The abundance of tools has allowed me to glean both formative and summative data. Screensharing student work in real-time has allowed my students to take the lead in their learning as they explain their thinking with classmates. Inquiry and conceptual understanding has come to life as I’ve remixed Dan Meyers “3-Act Math” tasks into Nearpod lessons. The ability to insert Dan’s video provocations into Nearpod keeps my students engaged. Both synchronous and asynchronous learners are able to access math lessons and engage in the content. I enjoy reading through their slides to see their thinking and consider next steps for instruction.
Nearpod has been a game changer both for my in-person and on-line learning environments. If I could only choose one ed-tech tool, it would hands-down be Nearpod!
Over the past 7 years, I’ve provided dozens of trainings both at my school site, district, community, and beyond. As a Google Certified Educator, I started giving trainings teaching Google Suite applications such as Drive, Docs, Slides, Drawings, and hyperdocs (creating content with hyperdocs and Nearpod is my passion!). I’ve provided trainings through the EdTechTeam Google summits both locally and in nearby southern California communities. I have also provided trainings through my local CUE affiliate as well as neighboring communities. Topics have included hyperdocs, passion projects, inquiry based learning, Flipgrid, SolveInTime, and the Global Goals. When the pandemic began and schools transitioned into remote learning, I started providing Nearpod trainings to my district and community. Sessions included an introduction to Nearpod and an advanced session where I taught attendees how to create a template in Google and add on the Nearpod interactive elements. There was a flood of interest as it was the perfect tool for the times. As a result of these trainings, El Centro Elementary School District purchased a district account for Nearpod and Flocabulary. I also host monthly CoffeeEdu meet-ups. Local educators and I share classroom experiences and many times edtech that we’re implementing. I’m also part of a cohort of teachers that implements flexible seating. We provide trainings and brainstorm ideas with fellow educators at our local Imperial County Office of Education.
I also work with San Diego State University with their student teachers. I have had 10 student teachers. For the past two years, I have been providing technology training when they start their journey into the classroom. Much of the training revolves around Google tools. This year, I conducted the trainings through Nearpod. The teacher candidates were able to learn about Google and Nearpod simultaneously. My student teacher implemented Nearpod and Flocabulary immediately. I look forward to working with a new cohort next fall.
An experience that was not able to happen because of the pandemic was the Global Goals playground at ISTE 20 in Anaheim. I was approved to present the Nearpod Global Goals lessons in four 15 minute interactive sessions. A second session I was approved for was with a team of educators sharing the Problem Based Learning strategy “SolveInTime!” created by Google Innovator Dee Lanier. I have been a beta tester with him since the onset of the product. Sharing with others brings me great joy!
Our local CUE affiliate has a conference called Tech de Mayo every year in May. I will be presenting two sessions: one is an introduction to Nearpod and the other is an introduction to the Gloabl Goals using Nearpod as a vehicle. I’m also tinkering with a mathematics session introducing educators to the visual thinking components that are available in Nearpod as well as “3-Act Math” that I’ve been implementing. Once the math library is released, it will be at the top of my training topic list! I can’t wait.
Please explain how you promoted or shared Nearpod or Flocabulary with other educators, and how you have impacted teachers’ usage or discovery of the platform.
As stated above, when the pandemic began in April, 2020, I provided training for my school district on Nearpod. I was relatively new to the tool but knew that it would be a game-changer for remote learning. I provided two introductory sessions where participants interacted with the tools and one session teaching educators how to create lessons using Google slides and the Nearpod add-on. As a result, with the help of Corey Bess, our southern California sales representative, my school district purchased a Nearpod and Flocabulary account that reaches over 6,000 students in 12 school sites. I also work with San Diego State University - Calexico campus with their student teachers. My student-teacher and I provided PD for her cohort of 40 teacher candidates. It was a great experience! I was also a guest on the podcast, Edu with You, and was challenged to convince the host of the benefits of Nearpod over the competitor tool. Click here for the podcast. Finally, during one of my CoffeeEdu virtual meet-ups, I introduced county educators to Nearpod. One particular school, Calipatria, requested additional training, which I did. Nearpod is such an easy tool to promote as I whole-heartedly believe in the educational value of Nearpod and Flocabulary both for students, educators, and administrators.
How do you, or plan to, promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the work you do?
The community in which I live and teach, the Imperial Valley, is 87% Hispanic, my school district has an 82% free and reduced lunch rate, and 43% of our students are Engligh Language Learners. Given these challenges, by training educators in effective use of Nearpod and facilitating implementation of Nearpod and Flocabulary, our students will have access to an edtech tool that will strengthen their language skills while learning curriculum content. The Nearpod English Learners library, with its premade lessons for K-12 students, is a ready-made resource for teachers to use during their English Language Development class periods. In addition to providing support for our ELL students, the Global Goals bank of lessons exposes students to the world beyond their community, encourages empathy, and creates a context for global understanding and action. Using Nearpod as a hub, I use and train other educators in SolveInTime, a problem based learning tool that is rooted in equity and inclusion. The equity expansion pack delves into social justice issues that students are challenged to solve. (For more on SolveInTime, click here.)
Are you involved in any other education ambassador programs? If so, which programs?
I am an ambassador for SolveInTime, which I highlighted above. I have been a beta tester since the inception of the tool. It has been an honor to implement with my students and share with other educators in training sessions. There are playing cards in the original interation and more recently has been digitzed with Nearpod.
While not an official ambassador, there are a couple of products I am intimately involved with. I regularly highlight the work of “The Hyperdoc Girls” and have been a beta tester with them as they developed their new website. Hyperdocs were my first dip into lesson design which has shaped me as an innovative educator. (For more on hyperdocs, click here.) Additionally, I often praise and share the work of Tony Vincent and his Shapegrams. He used Google Drawings to create digital pictures using shapes. His videos and step-by-step tutorial are engaging and easy for students, and teachers, to follow. These product innovators have been vocal in their appreciation of my support.
Why is Nearpod (and Flocabulary) a company and product that you would want to advocate for?
Nearpod has been my go-to tool for the past year. I honestly can say that it saved me during the pandemic. The ability to easily create interactive lessons, see students work in real-time, and access meaningful reports enabled me to engage my students in content, as well as be engaging, during a challenging time. The ability to differentiate, using the live or student paced lessons, provided the equity that students and parents deserve. As we pivot back to in-person learning, I plan to continue my use of Nearpod and am eager to share with other educators through word of mouth and professional development opportunities. Nearpod and Flocabulary are tools that are 100% effective with customer support and social media moderators that are knowledgeable and helpful. The Camp Nearpod sessions have been phenomenal! Corey with his presence on Twitter and Amber in the Facebook group, are dynamic examples of what a Nearpod PioNear can be! It would be an honor to join the team!
How did you hear about the PioNear program?
I originally heard about the PioNear program from Dr. Jennifer Williams through her work with the Global Goals. Working with Jennifer, she exposed me to Nearpod and the powerful pairing Nearpod has with the Global Goals. More recently, I have worked closely with Corey Bess, the southern California regional sales manager. He helped me introduce Nearpod to my local district, facilitate my first Nearpod PD, and secure a district contract that reaches over 6,000 students and 12 school sites.
What do you think being a PioNear means, and why would you make a good addition to the community?
To me a “pioneer” is the first to explore or apply a new skill. In the community where I live, Nearpod is a relatively new tool. By being a PioNear, I would be able to bring Nearpod and Flocabulary to the community at large. Through my affiliation as a district PD facilitator, CUE board member, and being active in the Twitter Edu community, I have access to a large network of educators. It would be an honor for me to share and advocate for my newest edtech passion. I am an outgoing, enthusiastic, people-person that loves to help others. Being a classroom teacher, I would bring current pratices into my message and PDs. I have a blog that I’ve authored since 2015. Being a Nearpod PioNear would be a great series of posts to write. I believe I would be an asset to the community of educators through PDs, sharing on Twitter, and elevating the voices and needs of English Language Learners as well as advocate for the Global Goals through Nearpod. I eagerly look forward to expanding my PLN and Nearpod journey.